Wanderthirst Blog

Friday, October 14, 2011

A tranquil canal ride takes London visitors to the city's Little Venice

Few places in London are more picturesque than the city's Little Venice area along the Regents Canal as it cuts a tranquil swath through the heart of the metropolis.

Starting from Limehouse Basin in East London's Docklands moving northwest to the city's Maida Vale district on to Regent's Park, visitors on a London vacation can take a waterbus, traditional narrow boat or open-sided boat to traverse the canal.

Stops along the way may include a visit to the London Zoo or Camden Locks market, where the selection of goods ranges from collectibles to clothing. The marketplace, one of the city's most popular visitor attractions, is particularly active on weekends when thousands of people converge on its vendor stalls.

Little Venice, located just north of Paddington area where the Grand Union and Regent's Canals meet, has a selection of waterside cafes and pubs for a lunch or afternoon tea. From there, visitors can reboard a boat or walk along the footpaths following the waterway as it curves through the bustling city around it.

Getting back to the heart of London is easy enough as streets and underground rail stations are never far from the canals.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Totally 80s and lovin’ it!

August 1st marked the 30th birthday for MTV. That means I was 12 and had just moved from Maryland to Florida and was just about to enter a new middle school when “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Of those years I recall being scared to enter into another new school as we had moved around a bit, but this would finally be a place to call home; a place where I could make friends and finish out my school years. However, this was definitely an awkward time. I was too young to hang with the cool teens, but yet too old to hang with the little tots. I was in the land of confusion. High school wasn’t any better so I found escape through music and…Molly Ringwald or Andrew McCarthy. “I want my MTV” was not only an advertising slogan; it was what I lived for. I am the product of the 80s. From Jordache jeans to stand-up collar polo’s that was me. So to celebrate MTV’s 30th birthday and a total homage to the 80s, I present to you the top 5 most memorable or influential things in my life.

5. Live Aid- I remember that day as if it was yesterday. It was a hot day in July. I was 16 with nowhere to go. I watched the entire broadcast and was in complete awe. I also woke up to the reality of life outside of me. It wasn’t so bad being a 16 year old kid living in Homosassa anymore.

4. Band Aid- Kinda goes hand and hand with #5. Every time I hear the song "Do They Know It's Christmas" over Christmas, its takes me right back to my youth. Today I still sing it with my sister as we did when we were younger.

3. John Hughes movies – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles…the list is endless.

2. MTV- brought me MADONNA and Thriller! Need I say more? Oh, and a host of other great bands. It’s my coming of age music: Duran Duran (my boys!!), Depeche Mode, INXS, Devo, The Cure, The Smiths, Yaz, Tears for Fears….I could go on and on. The hairbands were huge too but it was Duran Duran posters that covered my bedroom wall.

1. The fashion- crimping iron, black bangles, leather anything, puffy outfits, leg warmers, parachute pants and lots of black eye make-up and AquaNet. What were we thinking?

To this day, when I hear a song from the 80s or see some of the fashion that makes its way back around, it brings me great joy to reflect. Ahhh, I love the 80s!! What are some of your favorite moments?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Experience the nightlife and street parties of Europe in Zurich

In August, Zurich hosts Europe's largest and most colorful outdoor parties called Street Parade. First held in 1992 as a student demonstration, this techno party draws nearly a million people to the streets of Zurich to annually celebrate life.

As day turns into night, individuals dress to impress and dance the night away at one of the city's many discos. Club Q features a selection of hip-hop and house music all evening in the backdrop of an urban car park.

Travelers looking to recharge from the day's excitement can wind down with a drink and some local music at one of Zurich's bars. Visitors of X-tra Limmathaus can grab a beverage and meet someone new as they listen to salsa or dance-floor jazz. Sphères is a bar that may provide a more intellectually stimulating evening with its candle-lit bookshelves that are free to browse and extensive wine list.

Often known for its financial institutions and fine architectural structures, Zurich is becoming a new hub for young people who enjoy nightlife and parties in the city. Travelers who enjoy a night out should consider dropping by Zurich to enjoy its restaurants, bars and clubs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An all-inclusive vacation in the middle of a rainforest

Often, family vacations in remote locations like rainforests are off the table, simply because children may not be able to deal with the less-than-ideal conditions. However, a resort in Queensland, Australia, is looking to appeal to travelers by allowing them to stay in relative comfort- even in the middle of the rainforest.

At O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, guests can choose to stay in 48 brand-new luxury villas, according to Stuff New Zealand. These freestanding structures feature modern comforts like air conditioning, hot tubs and a full deck that overlooks the rainforest. They can easily fit the whole family, and the rest of the resort offers all the services that the villas don't, like a restaurant and spa.

That might be enough for some families, but staying in the room all day would be a shame in the middle of this beautiful Australian treasure. The rainforest, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Lamington National Park, boasts animals like koalas along with some rare plants and trees. The resort has installed a canopy walk, allowing visitors to get a bird's eye view of all the jungle action.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I wanted to post this press release because there is still time to get in on the September 27th cruise. Call me for details.

Wyland to promote environmental awareness and ocean preservation aboard Princess Cruises

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – February 23, 2011 – Cruise Planners/American Express, the nation’s largest home-based travel agent franchise network in the cruise industry, is selling select Princess Cruises as part of its 2011 CP Cares initiative, allocating $50 from each booking made by a Cruise Planners/American Express agent to raise funds for the Wyland Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life.

Renowned marine wildlife artist and environmentalist Wyland will sail on two upcoming Princess cruises, hosting live painting demonstrations and meet-and-greet sessions with passengers. Many Princess cruise ships feature Wyland’s work in the onboard art galleries and incorporate his art in the swimming pool areas. Aboard the Ruby Princess, Wyland held an impromptu painting session during one of his cruises where he drew dolphins at the bottom of the Neptune Pool before a crowd of cheering passengers.

“We are so proud to be able to give back to the Wyland Foundation through sales of Wyland’s exclusive and popular Princess sailings,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners/American Express. “Cruise Planners/American Express is all about giving cruisers the ideal ocean experience, and we hope to be able to give back as much as we can to an organization that works to conserve what we love so much, our oceans.”

Cruise Planners/American Express’ home-based travel agents are booking cabins for two Wyland Princess Cruises – the Ruby Princess and Star Princess. The seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Ruby Princess is sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on February 27, 2011 to the Princess Cays in the Bahamas and ports in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands. A portion of sales made for the 12-day Grand Mediterranean voyage aboard the Star Princess will go directly to the Wyland Foundation. The Star is sailing from Barcelona, Spain to Venice, Italy on September 27, 2011, and visiting ports in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

“Connecting with the passengers onboard the Princess voyages is a wonderful experience because they get to see first-hand the artwork I create and also learn more about our programs and campaigns to protect our oceans and marine wildlife,” said Wyland. “We appreciate Cruise Planners/American Express for giving back to the Wyland Foundation by delivering a portion of sales to fund the important programs and initiatives I created to educate and inform the public.”

About the Wyland Foundation

Founded by renowned environmental artist Wyland, the Wyland Foundation has helped children and families around the nation to rediscover the importance of healthy oceans and waterways through public art programs, classroom science education, and live events. The foundation gives children the tools they need to become more creative, positive, and solution-oriented. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and has worked directly with more than one million children since its inception in 1993. Learn more at www.wylandfoundation.org.

About Cruise Planners/American Express

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Services Representative, is the largest home-based travel agent network in the cruise industry with more than 700 franchise owners across the country that independently book cruises and associated travel. Named No.1 Cruise Tour / Travel Agency by Entrepreneur magazine for the past eight years, Cruise Planners positions franchise owners for success by providing them with innovating marketing, booking and lead-generating tools as well as professional development and hands-on training with the industry's top executives.

Headquartered in Coral Springs, Fla., Cruise Planners has achieved top producer status with every major cruise line. Accolades include Agency of the Year from American Express (2010), Royal Caribbean International Home-Based Partner of the Year (2007 - 2010), Norwegian Cruise Line Home-Based Agency of the Year (2010), Southeast Region Travel Agent Partner of the Year from Celebrity Cruises (2010), four coveted Magellan Awards from Travel Weekly in 2010, American Express Travel Representative Excellence Awards (2004 - 2009), Globe Award from American Express Vacations (2010), Globus Family of Brands Premier Agency Partner (2010), Platinum Circle Member with Viking River Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises Top Producer (2009).

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I’m traveling to Europe this summer...What and how should I pack?

This is a VERY good question. Europeans dress nicer than most Americans do. You’ll want to blend in and not LOOK like a tourist to help avoid those pick-pockets. If you don’t want to look like a tourist, avoid shorts, halters, sleeveless shirts. In Europe, these items are considered beachwear and you may find yourself a target just by wearing your normal summer clothes. You’ll also want to avoid packing those JUICY sweats outfits.

For starters, pack light. Try to pack only one bag – and limit it to 20lbs. If you can’t find a taxi, you’ll be the one lugging your bags to and fro so you’ll want to make sure you can carry everything you bring. An unstructured 9" x 22" x 14" bag should fit under most airplane seats and it will certainly fit in the overhead bins. You will want to pack clothes, toiletries and electronics, so keep that in mind when deciding what to take.

Pack less. But you are going to Europe for 10+ days, how are you supposed to pack less? Spend some time (perhaps every third night) doing a little laundry. And pack items that you can match up differently. After you’ve done a little bit of laundry, you can create new outfits so you don’t feel as though you are wearing the same outfits over and over again. This is the best tip for clothes, considering everything else you will want to take along in that bag of yours. Keep reading, you’ll see what I mean.

You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so be sure the pair of shoes you bring are comfortable walking shoes. It’s best not to buy a new pair of shoes for your trip. You won’t want to ruin them right away if it rains, and you wouldn’t want to get blisters on your feet the very first day. That would make for a miserable vacation. Aside from the one pair of walking shoes, I would bring ONE extra pair of nice dress shoes, so if you go out for a nice evening, you don’t show up in a dark pair of Dockers with bright white (or dirty and scuffy) tennis shoes.

Pack dark colors. Dark colors don’t show wrinkles or stains. Black goes with everything, so you’ll be able to create many different outfits. During warmer months, jeans may be too heavy and hot, so you might want to find some lighter weight slacks to wear.

During tourist season, many concert halls go casual. You should be able to get away with casual pants such as Dockers and a nice top.

Tie or scarf can gain you instant respectability. If you want a table at a nice restaurant for dinner, you should take something like a tie or a scarf to ‘jazz up’ your outfit.

I read an article by Rick Steves and I think he said it best:

“But ultimately — so long as you don't wear something that's outrageous or offensive — it's important to dress in a way that makes you comfortable. No matter how carefully you dress, your clothes will probably mark you as an American. Frankly, so what? Europeans will know anyway. I fit in and am culturally sensitive by watching my manners, not the cut of my clothes.”

Electronics: When packing, keep in mind that you may want to take some electronics with you. You won’t find a hair dryer provided in hotel rooms unless you are in a very nice hotel – and then you can’t guarantee there will be one there waiting for you. Find yourself a small, fold up, travel hair dryer and don’t forget to pack an adapter because European electrical currents are not the same as in America. And make sure the adapter is suited for where you are traveling. British/Irish outlets have different prong configurations than the continental Europe outlets.

When you get to Europe, you may want to visit a hardware store for a three way plug adapter. Many hotel rooms only have one outlet, but you have camera chargers, phone chargers, and the room light that you want all plugged in.

Now that you have all of these items in your suitcase, do you have enough room for souvenirs? You may need to pull one or two items OUT of that suitcase, so that you have room for the items you pick up along your travels when you return home. (Remember, you will want to do laundry a few times during your trip, so go ahead and take one or two outfits out of your bag.)

Additional information:

Rick Steves suggests the following for your Documents:

“Bring your passport, plane ticket (or e-ticket printout), railpass or car-rental voucher, driver's license, student ID, hostel card, and so on. Photocopies and a couple of passport-type photos can help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen. Carry photocopies separately in your luggage and keep the originals in your money belt. In your luggage, you'll also want to pack a careful record of all reservations (print out your hotels' confirmation emails), along with a trip calendar page to keep things up-to-date as your trip evolves.”

As an added backup, provide a copy of your passport to your Travel Agent. If you lose your passport, a quick call to your Travel Agent and they can begin requesting a replacement for you while you continue your trip and provide copies to any customs official when you need it.

Packing help: You may want to go out and buy some of those compression bags. You can pack your underwear, socks and other knit items in these bags which will give you more room for other items in your bag.

Guidebooks: Don’t pack them. Tear out pages from the books and staple them together. You can also print out information from the internet to take along.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saving money and vacation for that rainy day

I don’t know if it’s a generational thing. I think of my grandparents who died at 93 & 94 yrs old, saving money for that rainy day. Maybe they were of the mindset that they should leave something behind for their family ~ and perhaps they did. Sure they took vacations, but mostly they were vacations to see family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with seeing family ~ in fact, it’s important. But there is a whole big, huge world out there with many interesting places to see and people to meet! I for one don’t want nor do I intend to miss out on that. I CAN tell you that I don’t expect ANYTHING from my parents. They love to travel and I want them to be able to see everything in the world they want to see ~ so if that means they leave me a PENNY after they pass, then so be it! I’ll be lucky and happy to get that penny. Perhaps I’ll frame it next to a picture of them from one of their vacations!

Just like you, I’m not made of money, but I work hard for a living, I deserve much needed time off, and darn it ~ I’m gonna take it. You may be thinking “Sure, you get deals from everyone because you are a Travel Agent”. That is not always true and mostly I pay just like you do for the same vacation and once in a while I luck out and may get a small discount.

I find myself lying in bed thinking of all the places I want to see. Sure, I could save for years and MAYBE someday take that World Cruise of 100+ days. But I would rather see the world now and if that means seeing it in small doses, then small doses it is. I refuse to just sit down and watch life happen all around me. Life is hard enough. Make the most of it. Live happy ~ Live NOW!